Get hands-on with clay in the UK: Where to try out pottery and ceramics

By Kate McNab | 04 November 2015 | Updated: 01 April 2016

Pottery can be an expensive and tricky hobby, so having a go in a studio that has all the equipment and tutors to hand is a great way to get a feel for the medium

photograph of woman and child creating a clay animal
Claydays at the Leach Pottery - one of many hand-on workshops and classes run by the famous St Ives pottery© Image courtesy of the Leach Pottery, © Matthew Tyas
Pottery is an ancient art form which has recently been enjoying a surge in popularity. Whether it’s throwing pots on a wheel or using traditional Japanese glazing and firing techniques, working with clay offers a wealth of different processes that give you the opportunity to create unique, tangible and functional artworks to take home.

There are many ceramics studios throughout the UK, and we’ve compiled a list of places where you can get hands-on and have a go, from drop-in ceramics painting workshops to full-on academic pottery courses.


East Midlands:

Sharpe’s Pottery Museum
was home to a sanitary ware works which was in operation from 1821 until the 1960s. The current museum tells the story of the works, and features craft pieces by contemporary artists. They run family friendly clay workshops, usually during the school holidays.


East of England:

Elsing Pottery in Dereham is a small commercial pottery run by experienced potter Nick Allen, who teaches all aspects of the craft in small groups over one or two day sessions.

Photograph of beginner thrown pots
© Kate McNab
London:

Stepney City Farm and Rural Arts Centre
offer classes by experienced potter and ceramicist Jessica Joslin in the rather apt setting of a working farm.

Camden Arts Centre has a fantastically varied programme of art and craft workshops and has a suitable course for every level of potter. There are workshops for kids, beginners, intermediates and courses exploring different ceramic techniques in depth.

If you’re seriously into your ceramics, Rosetta Art Centre offer assessed courses over several weeks in their well-equipped studio, helping you on your way to becoming a master potter.  

London Potters
publish their Where to Pot in London guide, which lists colleges and studios around the city which teach the craft. The list includes Peckham's The Kiln Rooms - an open access and fully set up ceramics studio and Clapham Pottery - a not-for-profit community pottery offering classes that the whole family can get involved in.

The Malden Centre near Kingston on Thames runs termly pottery classes, short courses and parties for adults and children of all abilities, including beginners. These take place in a well-equipped studio using earthenware and stoneware clays and glazes.

Overlooking Richmond Park, Longfield Studio is run by ceramic artist Nicola Scott-Taylor and offers courses for children, one on one sessions and pottery parties, as well as a tranquil space for those wish to find a long-term studio to work in.

In Dalston, Turning Earth is a beautiful open-access members' ceramics studio offering a space for more experienced ceramicists to work peacefully. They also give 8 or 12 week introductory classes, to help you work towards independence in the studio.

North East:

As well as traditional western throwing workshops, The Yard Studio in Northumberland also teach Japanese raku firing and African udu drum making, for a truly multicultural experience.

David Fry Ceramics in Newcastle is home to one of Britain’s leading contemporary ceramicists. Held in a working pottery studio, the workshops are perfect for beginners.

a photo of hands making throwing a pot on a potter's wheel
Potter in Rabka© Piotrus. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -
North West:

The Potters Barn in Cheshire run a good value, weekly adult pottery class which covers throwing and handbuilding as well as decorating and glazing techniques. For those who are serious about their new hobby they also run beginner, intermediate and advanced pottery days, and hands-on raku firing days, complete with barbecue lunch.

Seven Limes Pottery in Manchester offer friendly classes by experienced tutors, book a six week block, one off workshop or special technique class.


Northern Ireland:

The pottery school at Mount Ida Pottery in County Down offers Saturday and weekend sessions tailored to you, by a potter with over 25 years of experience.

While Elements Studio in County Londonderry/Derry offers the usual throwing and firing classes, as well as ceramics painting and paper-clay sculpture.


Scotland:

Edinburgh’s Cyan Clayworks is run by two practising artists who run regular pottery courses in a friendly and supportive environment.  

St Andrews Pottery in Fife is a small independent studio which offers weekend courses and evening classes, and fun raku firing sessions.

And Glasgow Ceramics Studio have a selection of different length workshops and classes, teaching you handbuilding, sculpture and throwing.


South East:

The lovely West Dean College near Chichester have a varied programme of pottery short courses – from animal sculpting to spoon-making and creative glazing.

The Ceramic Studio, Kent has an impressive portfolio of student work. They run courses for any level, covering all aspects of ceramics. Well worth a look if you’re in Tonbridge.

Kingston Adult Education Centre in Surrey offers a host of ceramics courses for all levels. As well as throwing and hand-building they also run classes on decorating pieces with decal transfers and lithographic printing techniques, and figurative sculpture.


a composite picture of hands throwing a pot on a potter's wheel
Hand postitions used on the potter's wheel© CC BY 3.0
South West:

Where better to learn the craft than the Leach Pottery in St Ives? Founded by two of the most influential potters of the 20th Century, Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, the pottery offers adult courses, intensive courses, family workshops, master classes and more.

Over in Penzance, Richard Phethean also runs intensive courses, as well as weekly classes, Saturday workshops and even a summer school.

Kigbeare Studios & Gallery in Okehampton offer Saturday morning throwing workshops run by a local potter, where you can focus on the basics and work your way up to more experimental techniques.

The Wiltshire Ceramic Studio hold two handbuilding workshops a month, aiming to offer a friendly, non-intimidating space to introduce beginners to pottery.

Welcombe Pottery in Devon offer half or full day workshops with a maximum of two students, giving you the tutor support you need to make a variety of pots by the end of the session.

And the North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio, staffed by two experienced ceramic artists, runs courses and classes that allow you to focus on your chosen technique, with small class sizes to guarantee plentiful one-on-one time with the tutor.

Wales:

Aberystwyth Arts Centre coordinate the largest community arts programme in Wales including regular weekly courses and short taster courses. A great place to try out some pottery if you’re in Wales.

Cardiff Open at Cardiff School of Art and Design run 10-week long evening courses, suitable for both beginners and improvers. You can choose whether you'd like to focus on throwing, handbuilding, or both.

West Midlands:

A trip to Stoke is a must for any ceramics fan. The Potteries Museum and Gladstone Pottery Museum have the world’s greatest selection of Staffordshire ceramics and run daily demonstrations of pottery skills. You can get hands on at the Gladstone Pottery Museum in selected family friendly workshops.

If you're serious about getting behind the Potter's wheel then another great place to check out in the Potteries is Potclays a ceramics firm with a studio at Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent. Hosting a truly comprehensive programme of courses and workshops they cover many aspects of ceramics for everyone from the complete beginner to the professional practitioner.

MAC Birmingham run a huge number of creative workshops. Take an introduction to ceramics, create ceramic pieces inspired by nature or have a go at a figurative sculpture course, amongst others.

Ironbridge is home to both the Coalport China Museum and Jackfield Tile Museum. The former has a host of displays and demonstrations, with drop in workshops during the school holidays, while the latter offers you the chance to get hands-on in decorating your own ceramic tile with coloured slips.

a photo of two hands making clay on a potters' wheel
Hey Clay at Leigh Community Centre
Yorkshire:

Mother and son potters, with over 50 years’ experience between them give pottery classes at Bentham Pottery, which allow you the freedom to make whatever you’d like under their expert guidance.

The beautiful Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge is home to the Old Stables Studio, which offers starter courses for beginners and improvers and long sessions for the more experienced ceramicists.

Make N Take Ceramics in Bugthorpe is a family-friendly creative ceramics studio, encouraging experimentation in a fun and social environment. You can have a go at throwing, pottery painting and handbuilding in a rural Yorkshire setting.

The Art House in Sheffield have two large, well-equipped studios for you to give pottery a try. They have a variety of courses for beginners and improvers as well as a selection of one-off workshops, each focusing on a different project.


Have we missed something out? Tell us where you can learn to throw or make a pot using the comments below.


Culture24 is supporting the BBC's Get Creative initiative - a project dedicated to supporting and celebrating the public's involvement with the arts.

Latest comment: >Make a comment
Try www.thaxtedppotters.co.UK
Currently recruiting members and will be running beginners classes in Spring 2017 if there is demand
>See all comments
    Back to article
    Your comment:
    DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted at www.culture24.org.uk are the opinion of the comment writer, not Culture24. Culture24 reserves the right to withdraw or withhold from publication any comments that are deemed to be hearsay or potentially libellous, or make false or unsubstantiated allegations or are deemed to be spam or unrelated to the article at which they are posted.
    sign up to our newsletter to hear about Culture24's new website

    Events

    • 1 mile
    • 2 miles
    • 3 miles
    • 4 miles
    • 5 miles
    • 10 miles
    • 20 miles
    • 50 miles
    • Any time
    • Today
    • This week
    • This month
    • This year

    advertisement